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Sherman Closes in on Savannah

Sherman Closes in on Savannah

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Marker Text: One mile north, on December 9, 1864, during the American Civil War, U.S. Gen. Jeff. C. Davis crossed Ebenezer Creek with his 14th Army Corps as it advanced toward Savannah during Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea. Davis hastily removed the pontoon bridges over the creek, and hundreds of freed slaves following his army drowned trying to swim the swollen waters to escape the pursuing Confederates. Following a public outcry, Sec. of War Edwin Stanton met with Sherman and local black leaders in Savannah on January 12, 1865. Four days later, President Lincoln approved Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15, confiscating over 400,000 acres of coastal property and redistributing it to former slaves in 40-acre tracts.

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Sherman Closes in on Savannah - HISTORY

Sherman in Georgia!

IMMEDIATELY after his return to Atlanta from Jonesboro, Sherman determined to make that city a military camp, and issued orders accordingly. "The city of Atlanta," these orders read, "being exclusively required for warlike purposes, will at once be vacated by all except the armies of the United States and such civilian employes as may be retained by the proper department of government." The chief quartermaster was instructed to take possession of buildings of all kinds, and of all staple articles, such as cotton and tobacco. The chief engineer was to reconnoiter the city and suburbs for a more contracted line of defense, and designate such buildings as should be destroyed to make room for his operations. The remaining buildings would be set apart for different military uses, and under the direction of the quartermaster the troops were to be permitted to pull down buildings and use the materials for constructing shanties and bivouacs. The mayor, James M. Calhoun, was compelled to issue the following proclamation, September 8th:

To the Citizens of Atlanta: General Sherman instructs me to say to you that you must all leave Atlanta that as many of you as want to go North can do so, and that as many as want to go South can do so, and that all can take with them their movable property, servants included, if they want to go, but that no force is to be used and that he will furnish transportation for persons and property as far as Rough and Ready, from whence it is expected General Hood will assist in carrying it on. Like transportation will be furnished for people and property going North, and it is required that all things contemplated by this notice will be carried into execution as soon as possible.

In a letter to General Hood, Sherman wrote that he considered "it to be to the interest of the United States that all citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove," to which Hood replied: "This unprecedented measure transcends in studied and ingenious cruelty all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war." He agreed, for the sake of humanity, to assist in the removal of the citizens, and a truce of ten days, applying to the vicinity of Rough and Ready, was arranged for that purpose. At the same time negotiations were opened for the exchange of prisoners. On the 10th, Governor Brown addressed General Hood in behalf of the militia, stating that they had left their homes without preparation, expecting to serve but a short time, and should be permitted to visit them.
Hood's return for September 10th showed an effective total of 8,417 in Hardee's corps, 7,401 in Lee's, 8,849 in Stewart's, aggregate 24,667 infantry. Jackson had 3,794 effective cavalry, and Wheeler was in north Alabama. The artillery with the army included 3,382 men, making the total effective force (excluding Wheeler's command, absent on an expedition), 31,843. The aggregate present was reported at 60,000, but deducting Wheeler's 11,237, shows present with Hood on above date 49,137 of all arms.
On the 11th Hood telegraphed Bragg, now at Richmond, that he wished to move by the left flank as soon as possible, so as to interrupt the communications of Sherman. In accordance with this plan, Wheeler was directed to enter north Georgia again, destroy the railroad south of Dalton, and connect with Jackson, who was to be sent across the Chattahoochee. Wheeler promptly obeyed the orders and again caused an interruption of a week or two on the Western & Atlantic railroad. On the 18th, having caused the iron to be removed from the railroads running into Atlanta, for a distance of forty miles, and directing railroad stock to be restored to the West Point railroad, Hood began his movement to the left. Taking position from Palmetto to the Chattahoochee river, he waited there ten days for the accumulation of supplies. In this position he exposed Augusta and Macon, but he hoped to save them by his proposed flank march. On the 22d he advised General Bragg that if Sherman did not move south he would cross the Chattahoochee and form line of battle near Powder Springs, which would prevent Sherman from using the railroad in his rear, "and force him to drive me off or move south, when I shall fall upon his rear."
During this month Sherman conceived the idea that Georgia might be politically isolated from the other States in the Confederacy. Knowing that Vice-President Stephens and Governor Brown, both influential leaders in Georgia, had opposed the President in some matters of policy, Sherman conceived the idea that there was such hostility to Mr. Davis in Georgia that he could induce these eminent men to entertain a proposition for peace, or even to advise the State to withdraw from the Confederacy so as to avoid further destruction of its material interests. Acting on this idea, Sherman sent ambassadors to Stephens and Brown, but while they were willing to promote an honorable peace, they declined to consider any dishonor-ing proposition for independent State action, and refused peremptorily to visit the Federal commander on the terms stated by him. They were fully determined to remain true to the Confederacy, though the prospect of its affairs was very gloomy.
President Davis, accompanied by Senator Hill, now came to Georgia, and made a speech at Macon in which he endeavored to communicate to his hearers his own indomitable spirit. On the 25th and 26th the President visited the army and was enthusiastically received by the troops.
During this visit Lieutenant-General Hardee was supplanted by Major-General Cheatham, and on October 5th was given command of the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, which had been under the charge of Maj.-Gen. Samuel Jones since April 20th. Gen. Howell Cobb was put in command of the district of Georgia.
September 29th, Hood began his northward movement with the entire army, crossing the Chattahoochee, and the next day moved toward the line of Dallas and Marietta, with Jackson's cavalry at Powder Springs.
Sherman was fully aware that he could not remain at Atlanta with his great army depending on the Western & Atlantic railroad for supplies. Neither did he feel able to move south against Hood. He supposed Forrest would cut his railroad, but it could not be helped, he said, for Forrest could travel 100 miles while his own cavalry went 10. "I have sent two divisions up to Chattanooga and one to Rome, and Thomas started to-day to clear out Tennessee." As soon as advised of Hood's crossing of the Chattahoochee toward his rear, Sherman left General Slocum and his corps to guard Atlanta and the Chattahoochee bridge, and started northward in pursuit of Hood with five corps.
Hood reached the vicinity of Lost mountain on the 3d, and on the 4th General Stewart's corps struck the railroad at Acworth and Big Shanty, capturing 400 prisoners and some stores. Major-General French's division, about 3,000 strong, was sent against Allatoona, one of Sherman's most important depots, where were stored about 1,000,000 rations. The Federal garrison of 890 men, under Colonel Tourtellotte, had been reinforced by Gen. John M. Corse with one brigade, 1,054 strong, from Rome, the orders being transmitted mainly by the signal stations established on the summits of the hills and mountains along the Federal line of communication.
Corse reached Allatoona about 1 a.m. of the 5th. French arrived about 3 a.m., uninformed of the Federal reinforcements, and before daylight, while skirmishing was going on with the pickets, endeavored to gain the ridge commanding the town. At dawn he resumed his march, and by 7:30 the head of his column was on the ridge about 600 yards west of the Federal works, which consisted of three redoubts on the west of the deep railroad cut, and a star fort on the east, with outer works, abatis, stockades and other obstructions.- Meanwhile General Corse had disposed his forces in and before his fortifications, with Tourtellotte in command on the east of the cut. French sent General Sears' brigade to the north of the works, while Major Myrick opened fire with his artillery. The plan was for Sears to begin the fight, upon which Gen. F. M. Cockrell's Missouri brigade would attack from the other side, supported by four Texas regiments under Gen. W. H. Young. At 9 o'clock, when the troops were in position, General French sent in a summons for unconditional surrender, to avoid "the needless effusion of blood," and gave five minutes for reply. General Corse declined and the attack began.
The Missourians and Texans struck the line on the west of the cut commanded by Colonel Rowett, and after severe fighting, says Corse, swept part of his line back like so much chaff. Corse was only able under cover of a heavy fire from Tourtellotte to send an aide over for reinforcements. Before they could arrive both Sears and Young, according to Corse's report, assaulted with so much vigor and in such force as to break Rowett's line, and "had not the Thirty-ninth Iowa fought with the desperation it did, I never would have been able to bring a man back into the redoubt." After a desperate struggle, Rowett brought his force, the Thirty-ninth Iowa, Seventh and Ninety-third Illinois into the redoubts, where they were reinforced by the Twelfth and Fiftieth Illinois from the east side of the cut. The Confederates gained two of the redoubts held by Rowett, and then surrounded this last work with a storm of fire. Tourtellotte, on the east side, though badly wounded, managed to hold his main works, while Sears fought close up to the strong position.
About 10 a.m. Sherman had reached Kenesaw mountain, and seeing the smoke and hearing the artillery, signaled Corse to hold the fort, and ordered J. D. Cox's corps westward to threaten French's connection with the main Confederate army. Corse himself was severely wounded, but his men fought on under the assurance of relief, until French, early in the afternoon receiving intelligence of the threatening movement by General Cox, despaired of reducing the Federal garrison before night, and withdrew to rescue his command but before leaving the place, he captured the blockhouse at Allatoona creek, and burned the bridge. General French reported a capture of 205 prisoners and two flags, and gave his loss at 122 killed, 443 wounded, and 233 missing, total 798. General Young was wounded and captured, and nearly 70 other gallant officers were either wounded or killed. These casualties were suffered by the Confederate assaulting force of only a little over 1,000. Corse reported his own loss at 142 killed, 352 wounded, and 212 missing, total 706.
Hood now moved rapidly toward Rome, and Sherman followed through Allatoona pass to Kingston, and thence to Rome, but Hood crossed below that city and marched into the valley of the Oostenaula, escaping any collision except between cavalry. The Confederate advance attacked Resaca and demanded its surrender, but the Federal garrison was reinforced in time for safety. Sherman also followed to Resaca, but before his arrival on the 14th, Hood had destroyed the railroad thence to Tunnel Hill and captured the garrisons at Dalton, Tilton and Mill Creek gap, about 1,000 prisoners in all. Sherman moved into Snake Creek gap, through which he had passed in the opposite direction five months before, and was delayed there by the Confederate rear guard. At Ship's gap, Col. Ellison Capers, with his South Carolina regiment, held back the Federal advance until part of his force was captured. Thus Hood managed to move south from Lafayette down the Chattooga valley before Sherman could intercept him, and the latter followed down to Gaylesville, Ala., where he remained about two weeks from the 19th, watching the Confederate army at Gadsden, and foraging from the rich country into which Hood had led him.
On the 17th General Beauregard took command of the new military division of the West, east of the Mississippi, comprising Hood's department of Tennessee and Georgia, and Lieut.-Gen. Richard Taylor's department--Ala-bama, Mississippi and East Louisiana.
By the last of the month, Hood had moved his army across Alabama to Tuscumbia, and Sherman, sending the corps of Stanley and Schofield and all the cavalry except Kilpatrick's division to Chattanooga to report to Thomas, who was given chief command of all Federal troops in Tennessee, moved his remaining three corps back to Kingston, whence he sent all the impedimenta back to Chattanooga, and prepared for the long march which he now contemplated. On the 11th of November he ordered Corse to destroy everything at Rome that could be useful to an enemy, as well as the railroads in and about Atlanta, and northward to the Etowah. All garrisons from Kingston northward were ordered back to Chattanooga. Thus having cut himself off from the rear, he concentrated around Atlanta, on the 14th of November, four corps of infantry, the right wing under Howard and the left under Slocum, embracing 60,000 infantry, and 5,500 cavalry under Kilpatrick.
Under Sherman's orders Capt. O. M. Poe "thoroughly destroyed Atlanta, save its mere dwelling-houses and churches." The destruction was by fire purposely applied to buildings, and permitted to spread, as was expected, from house to house until the defenseless city was almost entirely reduced to ashes. No efforts were made to prevent the spread of the conflagration, and scarcely any structure was designedly spared. Only about 450 buildings escaped this ruthless burning, among them many churches, which in those days generally stood apart from other buildings. The thoroughness of the destruction can be realized, when we consider that by the census of 1860 Atlanta had a population of 10,000, which in 1864 had increased to 14,000. More than 4,000 houses, including dwellings, shops, stores, mills and depots were burned, about eleven-twelfths of the city. Capt. Daniel Oakey, of the Second Massachusetts volunteers, says: "Sixty thousand of us witnessed the destruction of Atlanta, while our post band and that of the Thirty-third Massachusetts played martial airs and operatic selections." Sherman himself noted the rising columns of smoke as he rode away from the city. Considering that he had been in possession of the city since the 3d of September, he had had ample time to utterly destroy everything in it that could be of advantage to an enemy, without the wanton and inexcusable method to which he resorted. It was no more necessary from a military point of view to destroy mercantile establishments than private dwellings or churches. The destruction of Atlanta can never be excused. The name of the Federal commander will always be associated with this barbarous act.
On November 15th the Federal right wing and cavalry started toward Jonesboro and McDonough to make a feint at Macon, but crossed the Ocmulgee river near Jackson, and reached Gordon in seven days. Slocum with one corps moved out eastward via Decatur, with orders to burn the Oconee bridge, east of Madison, after which to turn south and reach Milledgeville in seven days. Sherman himself left Atlanta on the 16th with Jeff C. Davis' corps, and moved via Lithonia and Covington, directly on Milledgeville. His object was to interpose his army between Macon and Augusta, and thus divide the Confederate forces.
Gen. G. W. Smith, in command of the First division, Georgia reserves, had at Lovejoy's Station a force numbering about 2,800 effective infantry, 200 or 300 cavalry, and three batteries. Brigadier-General Iverson with two brigades of cavalry covered his front. On the 12th, Major-General Wheeler arrived in person and his cavalry division soon followed from Alabama. After the cavalry had skirmished with Howard's advance, Smith fell back to Griffin, and there learning of the Federal movements eastward, moved rapidly to Macon. Wheeler notified Generals Bragg and Hardee, General Beauregard at Tuscumbia, Gen. Howell Cobb, General Taylor at Selma, General Hood and others, of the enemy's movements and evident intentions, and General Cobb also advised those high in command of the danger that was threatening. General Cobb, at Macon, had but a small force, and reinforcements were urgently called for. But there were few that could be spared. Beauregard could only send Gen. Richard Taylor to take command, and himself follow, but he had no forces to take with him. The war department extended Hardee's command to the Chattahoochee, but he could only spare the Fifth Georgia without stripping the coast. President Davis instructed General Cobb to get out every man who could render service, and promised that Colonel Rains, at Augusta, would furnish torpedoes to plant in the roads. Stirring appeals were made to the people of Georgia by Senator Hill and the Georgia congressmen to fly to arms, remove all subsistence from the course of Sherman's army, and destroy what could not be carried away burn all bridges, block up roads, and assail the invader night and day.
Meanwhile Sherman marched on, creating a charred avenue over 40 miles wide through the unprotected State, destroying the railroads, seizing all provisions, pillaging, plundering and burning. There was no force available to obstruct his onward course. He had simply to accomplish the military feat of "marching through Georgia." The forces of Generals Wheeler, Smith and Cobb being concentrated at Macon on the 19th, General Hardee took command, and sent Wheeler up to Clinton to reconnoiter. Six of his men dashed into Clinton and captured the servant of General Osterhaus, corps commander, with. in twenty feet of headquarters. Charging and counter-charging followed, ending in the repulse of a Federal cavalry command by Wheeler's escort. On the 20th there was active skirmishing by Wheeler. Kilpatrick advanced as far as the redoubts about Macon, held by the infantry and dismounted cavalry, and the head of his 'column entered the works but were repulsed. On the 22d, Howard having approached Gordon, sent Woods division and Kilpatrick's cavalry toward Macon for another demonstration. This force was met by Wheeler's men, who charged early in the morning and captured one of the Federal picket posts, causing the loss of about 60 to the enemy. A considerable cavalry fight followed, and in the afternoon Walcutt's Federal brigade behind barricades was attacked by the Confederate infantry and a battery. with great vigor. Walcutt was wounded, but managed to hold his ground with the assistance of cavalry.
On another part of the line of invasion the Federal Twentieth corps, opposed only by desultory skirmishing of small Confederate bands, had made a path of destruction through Madison and Eatonton. Geary's division destroyed the fine railroad bridge over the Oconee, and the mill and ferryboats near Buckhead. On the 19th he also destroyed about 500 bales of cotton and 50,000 bushels of corn, mostly on the plantation of Col. Lee Jordan. This corps entered Milledgeville on the 20th, and Davis' corps, accompanied by Sherman, arrived next day.
The State legislature hastily adjourned, and under the direction of Gen. Ira R. Foster, quartermaster-general of the State, great efforts were made to remove the State property and archives, but on account of the scarcity of wagons and the demoralized condition of the people, adequate help could not be obtained. As the penitentiary had been used for the manufacture of arms, and was expected to be destroyed, Governor Brown released all the convicts and organized them into a regularly mus-tered-in and uniformed battalion under Captain Roberts, which subsequently did good service in removing property and in battle.
Upon the arrival of the Federals, two regiments under Colonel Hawley, of Wisconsin, occupied the capital city, and according to his own report, burned the railroad depot, two arsenals, a powder magazine and other public buildings and shops, and destroyed large quantities of arms, ammunition and salt. A general pillage followed these acts of war. Then the two Federal corps pushed on by way of Hebron, Sandersville, Tennille and Louisville, and Howard's wing crossed the Oconee at Bali's ferry and advanced in two columns by the 1st of December to the neighborhood of Sebastopol.
Howard at this date reported that he had destroyed the Ocmulgee cotton mills, and had supplied his army from the country, which he found full of provisions and forage. "I regret to say that quite a number of private dwellings which the inhabitants have left have been destroyed by fire, but without official sanction also many instances of the most inexcusable and wanton acts, such as the breaking open of trunks, taking of silver plate, etc. I have taken measures to prevent it, and I believe they will be effectual. The inhabitants are generally terrified and believe us a thousand times worse than we are." The wanton destruction went on, however, with rarely such efforts to restrain the soldiery from depredations.
As Howard advanced, Gen. H. C. Wayne, with the cadets of the Georgia military institute and part of the reserves, fell back across the Oconee. Maj. A. L. Hart-ridge in a gallant fight defended the Oconee railroad bridge. The Federals by the feint at Macon had managed to hold General Hardee there with some forces in their rear, and the similar feint toward Augusta detained Gen. B. D. Fry, with about 4,000 troops. On the 23d, Austin, with the cadets, successfully held the railroad bridge against the enemy, and Hartridge, at the ferry, drove back across the river a Federal detachment which had forced its way over. This permitted the removal of the stores from Tennille. Gen. A. R. Wright took command in this quarter under authority of a telegram from President Davis, all communication between the east and the west sides of the State being broken. Augusta was reinforced by troops under Generals Chestnut and Gartrell from South Carolina. Beauregard, arriving at Macon, where Lieutenant-General Taylor also was, reported that Sherman was doubtless en route to the sea, thence to reinforce Grant, and he instructed Hood that he should promptly crush Thomas in middle Tennessee, to relieve Lee.
On the 24th, Wayne reported to General McLaws that the Federals were shelling him at Oconee bridge, but he kept up a gallant fight till night, holding one end of the bridge while the enemy set fire to the other. Finally parties crossed the river to his right and left, and he was compelled to withdraw his few hundred men. Wheeler crossed the river to the south on the same day and moved to the support of the Confederates.
On the 25th General Bragg reached Augusta and took command. Wheeler, pushing on to Sandersville, reinforced the local troops which were skirmishing with the Federal cavalry advance, and drove the latter back with some loss. On the same evening, learning that Kilpatrick had started out toward Augusta, he left Iverson before the Federal infantry, and overtaking Kilpatrick at midnight, drove him from the main Augusta road. Pushing on rapidly he struck the enemy several times during the early morning, capturing prisoners. The way was lighted with the barns and houses, cotton gins, and corn-cribs fired by the Federals. Kilpatrick was forced to turn off by way of Waynesboro, where he destroyed the bridge and set fire to the town, but Wheeler arrived in time to extinguish the flames. Beyond Waynesboro, Kilpatrick hastily barricaded a line which Wheeler assailed with great spirit, Humes and Anderson attacking on the flank. The enemy was routed, losing a large number in killed, wounded and prisoners, General Kilpatrick himself escaping with the loss of his hat. In a swamp the fight was renewed, and the enemy again stampeded with the loss of about 200. Retreating over Buckhead creek, Kilpatrick fired the bridge but could not hold his ground long enough to see it burned, and Wheeler repaired the structure and crossed in pursuit. His worn-out troopers had now been riding and fighting a night and a day, but before night again arrived he attacked the Federal line behind their barricades and again sent them flying. "During the night," Wheeler reported, "Kilpatrick sought the protection of his infantry, which he did not venture to forsake again during the campaign."
The third period of Sherman's advance, in the first ten days of December, was toward Savannah in five columns: The Fourteenth corps immediately south of the Savannah river, the Seventeenth corps on the north side of the Ogeechee, the Twentieth midway between, and the Fifteenth in two columns south of the Ogeechee, the southerly column passing through Statesboro. On December 2d Sherman sent Kilpatrick out toward Waynesboro again, supported by Baird's division of infantry. Wheeler checked the advance at Rocky creek, but was flanked from this position. Next day he attacked the enemy in force, and renewed the attack at midnight. On the 3d the Federals advanced, and Wheeler threw up barricades and fought desperately, but was pushed back to Waynesboro. Here he was so warmly pressed that it was with difficulty he succeeded in withdrawing from his position, but a gallant charge of Texans and Tennesseeans enabled him to retreat in safety. The remainder of his operations mainly consisted in persistent attacks upon the Federal rear. After approaching Savannah closely, he left Iverson to watch the enemy on the Georgia side, while he crossed into South Carolina and held the line of communication from Huger's landing to Hardeeville, protecting the New River bridge, east of the Charleston railroad.
Wheeler reported that in this campaign his force never exceeded 3,500 men, and he seldom had more than 2,000 in his immediate command. "The enemy had been falsely informed by their officers that we took no prisoners, which caused him to fight with desperation and to run very dangerous gauntlets to escape capture, which frequently accounts for the large number of killed. In every rout of their cavalry, and in the many fights that ensued, they continued to flee, refusing to surrender, notwithstanding the demands of our men in close pursuit. Consequently no alternative was left but to shoot or saber them to prevent escape." In approaching Savannah, Sherman's left wing struck the Charleston railroad near the bridge over the Savannah river, and established batteries. The right wing arriving promptly, the Confederate outer works, beginning about 4 miles above the city on the Savannah and extending southwest to the Little Ogeechee, were closely invested.
Gen. G. W. Smith, by presenting a bold front at Griffin, Forsyth and Macon, successively caused Howard to pass those places unmolested. At Griswoldville the State troops, contrary to Smith's orders, made an attack upon an intrenched Federal division, and were repulsed with a loss of 51 killed and 472 wounded. Yet they remained close to the Federal line until dark. Then they were withdrawn to Macon and sent on the cars by way of Albany and Thomasville to Savannah.
Though the troops of General Smith had not enlisted for service outside the State, they marched in the latter part of November to Grahamville, S.C., to defend the railroad to Charleston from the operations of General Foster, who advanced from Broad river. There they fought gallantly November 30th, in the battle of Honey Hill, beating back the repeated Federal attacks. General Smith in his report particularly commended the service of Colonel Willis, commanding First brigade of Georgia militia Major Cook, commanding the Athens and Augusta battalions of reserves, and Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards, commanding the Forty-seventh Georgia regiment. After this brilliant affair the Georgia militia returned to the State. A notable feature of this battle was the presence in the ranks of the Confederates of some boy volunteers, even under the age subject to conscription. Some of these boys were not tall enough to shoot over the parapet. But they curiously and enter-prisingly so arranged that one would get upon his hands and knees, making a bench on which another would stand, deliver his fire and then change places with his comrade, so that he in his turn might get a shot at the "Yankees."
Vigorous fighting continued in the vicinity of Coosaw-hatchie, threatening Hardee's only avenue of escape, and a fleet of sixty vessels was reported at Hilton Head. These carried supplies for Sherman's men, who were subsisting mainly on rice and finding it inadequate. Hardee saw that retreat was inevitable, and entertained reasonable fears that delay would render escape impossible. On the 8th General Beauregard advised him, as there was no army of relief to be expected, whenever it became necessary to choose between the safety of his army and that of the city of Savannah, to sacrifice the latter.
One of the precautions taken by Hardee to prevent Sherman from cutting off his retreat into South Carolina was the sending of Flag-Officer W. W. Hunter up the Savannah river to destroy the Charleston and Savannah railroad bridge. Taking his flagship Sampson, the gunboat Macon and a small transport steamer laden with supplies, Hunter successfully accomplished his mission and then returned to Savannah. As he approached the city, however, he found the Federal batteries in position, and after a gallant attempt to pass, in which the transport was disabled and captured, he was compelled to take his two small wooden gunboats up the river. Taking advantage of unusually high water, he was enabled to pass the obstructions and reach Augusta, where he and the most of his command were finally surrendered under General Johnston's capitulation.
To open up communications with the Federal fleet, Howard marched farther south and rebuilt King's bridge, while Kilpatrick reconnoitered Fort McAllister, upon which fire was opened by DeGress' battery on the 13th. Hazen's division, which, with J. E. Smith's division, had marched by Statesboro where a number of their foragers had been killed and captured by Confederate cavalry, and later had forced a passage across the Canouchee opposed by Confederate infantry and artillery, was sent against Fort McAllister, the vicinity of which was reached about 11 a.m. on December 13th. They were delayed by the picket line and torpedoes in the road, and it was not until 4:45 that the assaulting column of nine regiments closed up around the fort, which was held by Maj. George W. Anderson and 250 men. General Hazen reported that the fort was carried at precisely 5 p. m. "At close quarters the fighting became desperate and deadly. Just outside the works a line of torpedoes had been placed, many of which were exploded by the tread of the troops, blowing many men to atoms, but the line moved on without checking, over, under and through abatis, ditches, palisading and parapet, fighting the garrison through the fort to their bomb-proofs, from which they still fought, and only succumbed as each man was individually overpowered." The report of General Hazen is as high a compliment as the brave Confederate garrison of Fort McAllister could desire. The Federal loss in the assault was 24 killed and 110 wounded.
Sherman, who was watching the assault from the rice mill, as soon as he saw the United States flag hoisted, went down the river in a boat, and observing a Federal vessel farther down the Ogeechee, went on and for the first time communicated with Dahlgren's fleet. Next day he met Dahlgren at Warsaw sound, and arranged that he should be furnished with siege guns for the reduction of the lines before Savannah. On the 17th he sent in from Slocum's headquarters on the Augusta road a demand for surrender, and on the following day received a refusal from General Hardee, who had about 15,000 troops, besides General Smith's 2,000 Georgia State troops occupying the intrenched line west of the city. Sherman, having next arranged for the assault by Slocum, went to Port Royal by boat to urge the movement against the Charleston & Savannah railroad. On the 21st he was informed, to his great disappointment, that Hardee had escaped into South Carolina.
A pontoon bridge, about half a mile in length, having been constructed from Hutchison's island across the Savannah, Hardee moved his army out in safety on the 21st, taking with him his artillery and baggage wagons, and made a secure retreat, one of the most successful in the course of the war. General Smith's command brought up the rear and was then transferred to Augusta.
Commodore Tattnall had been prevented from making a dash seaward with his fleet, the main strength of which was the armored ship Savannah, by the placing of seven monitors in the Savannah river and other channels of escape. The remainder of Admiral Dahlgren's fleet had bombarded Battery Beaulieu on Vernon river and other works on the Ogeechee and Ossabaw. Before the evacuation, Commodore Tattnall destroyed the ships and naval property, blowing up the water battery Georgia, burning and sinking the Milledgeville and Waterwitch, and destroying the navy yard and a large quantity of ship timber. An unfinished torpedo boat, the small steamers Beauregard and General Lee, 150 pieces of ordnance and 32,000 bales of cotton fell into the hands of the Federals. The Savannah was still in the river when the United States flag was hoisted over Fort Jackson, and Captain Brent, its commander, at once opened fire, driving the troops from the guns of the fort, and defiantly flying the stars and bars until night of the 21st. Brent then ran the Savannah over to the South Carolina shore, disembarked, that his crew might join Hardee's column, and at 10 o'clock the ironclad was blown up. General Slocum had discovered the evacuation at 3 a.m. on the 21st, and his command at once occupied the city.
In his report of the march to the sea, General Sherman declared that he had destroyed the railroads for more than 100 miles, and had consumed the corn and fodder in the region of country 30 miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah, as also the sweet potatoes, cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry, and carried away more than 10,000 horses and mules, as well as a countless number of slaves. "I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia and its military resources at $100,000,000 at least $20,000,000 of which has inured to our advantage, and the remainder is simply waste and destruction." After admitting that "this may seem a hard species of warfare," he comforted himself with the reflection that it brought the sad realities of war home to those who supported it. Thus condoning all the outrages committed by an unrestrained army, he further reported that his men were "a little loose in foraging, and did some things they ought not to have done."
Howard, evidently ashamed of the manner of the marching through Georgia, claims that the "Sherman bummers" were not with his wing. He reported the capture of about 1,200 prisoners, 10,500 cattle, about $300,000 worth of subsistence, 931 horses, 1,850 mules, about 5,000,000 pounds each of corn and fodder, and the destruction of 3,500 bales of cotton and 191 miles of railroad. Slocum 'reported a similar amount of subsistence taken, 119 miles of railroad wrecked, 17,000 bales of cotton destroyed. The limits of this chapter do not permit of an adequate description of the ruin wrought throughout Georgia. The imagination, acting upon the basis of the outline here given, cannot exceed the reality.
In his message of February 17, 1865, Governor Brown, after recounting the destruction wrought by Sherman, said:

In these misfortunes Georgia has been taunted by some of the public journals of other States because her people did not drive back and destroy the enemy. Those who do us this injustice fail to state the well-known fact that of all the tens of thousands of veteran infantry, including most of the vigor and manhood of the State, which she had furnished for the Confederate service, but a single regiment, the Georgia regulars, of about 300 effective men, was permitted to be upon her soil during the march of General Sherman from her northeast border to the city of Savannah, and that gallant regiment was kept upon one of our islands most of the time and not permitted to unite with those who met the enemy. Nor were the places of our absent sons filled by troops from other States. One brigade of Confederate troops was sent by the President from North Carolina, which reached Georgia after her capital was in possession of the enemy. For eight months the Confederate reserves, reserve militia, detailed men, exempts, and most State officers, civil as well as military, had kept the field almost constantly, participating in every important fight from Kenesaw to Honey Hill. If the sons of Georgia under arms in other States had been permitted to meet the foe upon her own soil, without other assistance, General Sherman's army could never have passed from the mountains to the seaboard.

In conclusion, Governor Brown claimed that Georgia during the fall and winter had a larger proportion of her white male population under arms than any other State in the Confederacy.
Source: "The Confederate Military History," Volume 6, Chapter XVII

Day One

Orient Yourself to the Town
First, stop at the Tricentennial Park, housed in an antebellum train depot where Confederate troops would depart to the battlefields of North Virginia. The museum holds a collection of Civil War artifacts, so take some time to browse. Then, head next door to the Georgia State Railroad Museum, a former train repair facility that houses a model train and displays about the railway's importance in shaping Savannah's position as a Confederate power player.

Go on a Historic Home Tour
The Andrew Low House hosted Robert E. Lee and Union generals, and the Green-Meldrim House served as General Sherman's headquarters during his winter in Savannah. Most historic homes played some role in the occupation, so take a careful look at the outside plaques as you walk around town

Wander Down River Street
Steps from the water, and former home to cotton warehouses, this street was incredibly important for both sides. Try Vic's on the River, which used to be used as a housing and planning space by Sherman's officers in 1864

Sit Down to Dinner at a Former Civil War Hospital
45 Bistro is known for its' mouth-watering menu—and it's location, Marshall House, is known for it's role in the Civil War. Formerly a hotel, the house was turned into a hospital during Sherman's occupation.

Marker Text: General William Tecumseh Sherman used this house as headquarters from Dec. 22, 1864, until Feb. 1, 1865. Charles Green offered the use of his home to General Sherman and his staff. Sherman’s chaplain conducted the Christmas services in St. John’s Church. The house was built for Green, a British subject, residing in Savannah prior to 1854. The architect was John S. Norris of New York. The house is notable as one of the country’s finest examples of residential Gothic Revival architecture, the detail of the interiors being as sumptuous as any to be found in America. Cost of the construction of this house in the 1850s totaled $93,000.

In 1892 it was acquired from the Green family as a residence by Judge Peter W. Meldrim, distinguished Georgia jurist and President of the American Bar Association (1912-1913).

St. John’s Episcopal Church acquired the house from the Meldrim heirs in 1943 for use as a parish house and rectory. The house was purchased partly through public subscription by the citizens of Savannah. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Explore Georgia’s Historical Markers


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Savannah, GA 31401
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Savannah, GA 31401
Tel 912.651.2125 | Fax 912.651.2831
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One Baltimore Place NW, Suite G300
Atlanta, GA 30308
Tel 404.382.5410

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Temporarily closed due to renovation.
GHS digital archival resources available at Georgiahistory.com/research.

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Bound By A Plantation, Two Georgians Remember A Special Christmas

Martha McCullough shows off a photo of her grandfather, Christmas Moultrie, who was born on the Mulberry Grove Plantation before Gen. Sherman's army burned it down ahead of the capture of Savannah in 1864. Both McCullough and Hugh Golson, a descendant of the plantation's owner, knew Moultrie as children. Carl Elmore/Courtesy Savannah Morning News hide caption

Martha McCullough shows off a photo of her grandfather, Christmas Moultrie, who was born on the Mulberry Grove Plantation before Gen. Sherman's army burned it down ahead of the capture of Savannah in 1864. Both McCullough and Hugh Golson, a descendant of the plantation's owner, knew Moultrie as children.

On Dec. 21, 1864, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman captured the city of Savannah, ending his March to the Sea.

In the days leading up to Savannah's surrender to the Union, Sherman's troops burned the nearby Mulberry Grove Plantation. They also freed hundreds of slaves, including a baby boy who would grow up on the land as a free man.

Now, 150 years later, the descendants of some of the people living on that plantation still share a special connection to that man.

Hugh Golson, a retired history teacher, is a wiry white man in his mid-60s with bright blue eyes.

Martha McCullough, 87, is a former grade-school teacher. She's African-American, wearing a festive red sweater and hat at Golson's Victorian home in downtown Savannah. The house is filled with antiques, bookshelves and richly painted green walls covered in old photographs.

Hugh Golson stops next to the steps of what was once the main house of Mulberry Grove Plantation. His ancestor, Zachariah Winkler, once owned the plantation and watched as Gen. Sherman's army burned the house down. Steve Bisson/Courtesy Savannah Morning News hide caption

Hugh Golson stops next to the steps of what was once the main house of Mulberry Grove Plantation. His ancestor, Zachariah Winkler, once owned the plantation and watched as Gen. Sherman's army burned the house down.

Golson holds up a small photo of a white man decked out in a gold watch.

"This is my ancestor that owned her grandfather," Golson says. "This is Zachariah Winkler, the master of Mulberry, the second-largest rice planter on the Savannah River."

It was taken, he says, in the studios of the famed photographer Matthew Brady. Another, larger snapshot depicts an older, African-American man, with a line of trees behind him, wearing a corduroy cap. That's McCullough's grandfather, Christmas Moultrie.

Golson says Moultrie was born on Christmas Day, 1863, a year before Sherman's men arrived. Some accounts, though, say he was born in the late 1850s.

"But this is the man that owned him and owned his parents. So I like to keep them together, and I like to have Christmas in the larger frame," Golson says.

Growing up in the 1930s and '40s, McCullough visited her grandfather at the old Mulberry plantation, where he'd been born in slavery. He stayed on and worked there much of his life, living mostly off the land.

'That Fascinating Man' — Caretaker, Moonshiner And Judge

"Oftentimes he would go hunting and fishing, and he was the caretaker," McCullough remembers.

McCullough and Golson say Moultrie also made a little money on the side, distilling and selling illegal moonshine on the property. Even after so many years, McCullough is still a little bashful about discussing it.

"You know, I might could say it now," she says. "I was a little girl taking moonshine liquor to the judges in the courthouse. I was this little black girl — "

" — bringing her granddaddy's wares," Golson says.

"Moonshine, in the courthouse," McCullough laughs. "How illegal!"

Moultrie mostly tried to keep his distance from the legal system, however. Growing up among the first generation of former slaves, Moultrie told his neighbors to work out disputes on their own, without involving white judges, McCullough says.

"Everyone had their problems," she says. "Any type of family problems, my grandfather was the judge. Christmas Moultrie [would] solve the problem."

As a young child, Golson also knew Moultrie, until Moultrie's death.

"He was an iconic figure to me," Golson says. "He was that fascinating man that lived right there at the gate, taking care of everything."

Moultrie was too young to remember it, but Sherman's arrival at Mulberry Grove in December 1864 is described in Savannah River Plantations, a book published in 1947 as part of the federal Works Progress Administration employment project.

Golson keeps a copy on his bookshelf. He says the account, which describes Sherman's troops burning down the plantation in front of Winkler as a slave stood guard, is similar to stories handed down in his family about the war.

"But Martha can tell us what was really happening at Mulberry," Golson says. "Her grandfather told her that those war years were hard, that they were hungry, that they didn't have much food. You better believe they held a gun on the man that made that happen."

'Trouble Don't Last Always'

McCullough says her grandfather also told her about moving on after hard times.

"I'm very grateful to God, that I let problems roll away like water off a duck back," McCullough says. "I say, 'Trouble don't last always.' That's my theme with my grandfather."

Though McCullough and Golson both grew up knowing Moultrie, and knew each other through their work as teachers, they didn't always know of their connection through him.

"We were sitting at the table together for probably a dozen years before we realized we had this old connection between us," Golson says.

In the early 1990s, they ran into each other at a meeting of a group trying to preserve Mulberry Grove as a historic site. That's when they connected the dots.

"It was fantastic to know that Hugh knew my grandfather," McCullough says. "I said, 'You knew my grandfather?' "

"That is the man that kind of bound us together," Golson says.

That bond, which began on a plantation near the end of the Civil War, is one they say they'll share for the rest of their lives, and beyond. Before McCullough leaves Golson's home, she has one request: "I'm going to ask Hugh to please . have something to say at my funeral."

"Anytime," Golson replies, "but Martha, you're presuming that I'm going to outlive you. It might be the other way, [the way] you're going. You might have to speak at my funeral."

In 1865, a meeting was held at the First African Baptist Church to discuss how the freed slaves were going to educate their community.

Leaders African American churches remained behind after the meeting to discuss the organization of schools. Together, they formed the Savannah Education Association (SEA). With funding from the community and assistance from Northern Education Aide Societies, the SEA provided free education for African-American students. This funding allowed for the building of the Beach Institute. The American Missionary Association the Freedmen’s Bureau helped in the construction.

The school was named in honor of inventor and editor of Scientific American, Alfred Ely Beach, who was a benefactor of the school. Now operated by the King-Tisdell College Foundation, the Beach Institute hosts award-winning exhibitions celebrating African-American art.

The Beach Institute is located at 502 E. Harris Street. For admission rates and hours, visit www.beachinstitute.org or call (912) 335-8868.

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Upon Oglethorpe’s foresight, the city of Savannah was laid out in a series of grids allowing for wide streets and public squares. Considered America’s first planned city, Savannah had 24 original squares with 22 still in existence today.

A few decades after the founding of Savannah, it proved a strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War. In 1778, the British took Savannah and held it until 1782. Eventually, a land-sea force of French and American troops reclaimed the city’s independence. After this turbulent time, Savannah saw a long period of agricultural flourish.

With rich soil and a favorable climate, Savannah and its surrounding land became home to cotton and rice fields as plantations and slavery became highly profitable systems. And the invention of the cotton gin on a nearby plantation meant that the city rivaled Charleston as a commercial port.

The History of The Marshall House - One of the Oldest Hotels in Savannah

During the railroad boom of the 1840s and 1850s Savannah doubled in size and population. Seeing a real need for accommodations and housing, business-woman Mary Marshall developed several properties in Savannah, most notably the iconic Marshall House hotel in 1851. Mary Marshall and her estate leased and collected rents from The Marshall House until 1914.

The hotel&rsquos colorful history spans 167 years, and includes roles as a hospital during the Yellow Fever Epidemics in the mid-1800s, and as a Union hospital during the final months of the Civil War.

The Marshall House was also home to Joel Chandler Harris, author of the famous Uncle Remus Stories during the Reconstruction Period. For economic and structural reasons, The Marshall House was closed in 1957. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors were abandoned, but the ground floor was maintained for various shopkeepers and stores until 1998.

In 1999, The Marshall House was extensively restored, and once again became a Savannah fixture. Great efforts were taken to ensure the hallmarks of the historic hotel were preserved or recreated: including the Philadelphia Pressed Brick on the façade and the Savannah Grey Brick throughout, original staircases (some of the spindles and accents have been recreated), original wood floors, fireplaces, brick walls, the doors to each guest room, and several claw foot tubs dating back to 1880. The veranda and gas lights were reproduced in the likeness of the original features. The Courtyard Atrium was encased with a glass ceiling to give a sense of the area&rsquos previous use as a courtyard. Artifacts found during the restoration are encased in display cabinets on the second and third floor.

Savannah charms visitors with architecture, history and stories

Even if you’re a first-time visitor to Savannah, you might have a sense of deja vu here, thanks to all the writers and filmmakers who have featured this city in their books and movies. But in Savannah, the real thing is even more genteel, quirky and captivating than its fictional counterpoints.

The city was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, who laid out its streets on a grid pattern with wide streets and 24 public squares. His elegant design made Savannah one of the first planned cities in America. Twenty-two of those original squares remain today, havens of green filled with public art and surrounded by historic buildings. It’s said that the city was spared during the Civil War because Union Gen. William Sherman thought it so beautiful he couldn’t destroy it.

The best way to savor Savannah’s charms is on foot. A stroll along Bull Street will take you through the heart of the city’s historic district, which has a cornucopia of 18th- and 19th-century architectural styles. When you need a break, find a bench to sit and people-watch, following the example of Forrest Gump in the movie-of-the-same-name that was partially filmed here (his bench is on display at the Savannah History Museum). End your stroll at Forsyth Park, a 30-acre oasis with a picturesque fountain, towering live oaks and a fragrance garden filled with aromatic plants and flowers.

The Savannah College of Art and Design, one of the country’s top art schools, gets partial credit for Savannah’s beauty. Founded in 1978, it has helped preserve the city’s architectural heritage by restoring more than 60 buildings that now house its operations. You also can see the creativity of the school’s faculty, students and alumni in the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art and in galleries around the city.

Some of the city’s most beautiful art can be enjoyed in Bonaventure Cemetery, which gained international fame for its role in the book and film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Lined with live oaks draped with Spanish moss and filled with Victorian statuary and monuments, the graveyard — one of the loveliest in the world — is a top Savannah tourist attraction.

While you can walk through Bonaventure on your own, a guided tour provides a fascinating window into local history and culture. Located three miles from downtown Savannah on the Wilmington River, the property was originally part of a plantation founded in 1762. Among the famous Savannah natives buried here are Grammy Award-winning musician Johnny Mercer, poet Conrad Aiken, and Little Gracie, a girl who died of pneumonia at the age of 6 in 1889. Little Gracie’s monument, a poignant likeness of the girl in marble, has touched the hearts of visitors for more than a century.

“You can’t say you’ve seen Savannah without visiting Bonaventure Cemetery,” said Dawn Martin, a guide with Bonaventure Cemetery Tours. “In addition to beautiful markers, it’s filled with stories of the people who’ve shaped the city.”

You can learn more about Savannah’s unique character at several downtown museums, including the Savannah History Museum, which is located in a former railroad station, and the Massie Heritage Center, which focuses on the city’s educational history and architecture. The Mercer Williams House is a must-do for anyone fascinated by “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” a book based on a murder that occurred there in 1981. The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, part of which is housed in an 1819 Regency-style mansion, is the oldest public art museum in the South.

For shopping and restaurants, head to River Street, a historic area with cobblestone streets that overlooks the Savannah River. A few blocks away is City Market, a bustling arts and entertainment district. Don’t miss the life-size statue of Johnny Mercer, who strikes a jaunty pose amid the strolling pedestrians.

One of the best ways to experience the city is on a food tour with Savannah Taste Experience. Its First Squares tour includes stops for alligator sliders at B&D Burgers, British-style sausage rolls at Little Crown by Pie Society, and honey-flavored treats at the Savannah Bee Co.

“Savannah’s food scene has classic Southern dishes like grits and sweet potatoes interpreted in innovative ways,” said Deshawn Mason, a guide with the Savannah Taste Experience. “And because we’re a coastal city, we have access to the freshest and best seafood.”

Top restaurants in Savannah include The Grey, a hipster eatery housed in a former Greyhound Bus terminal the Olde Pink House, which is known for its classic Southern dishes and Husk, which serves seasonal, locally sourced dishes. For breakfast, try Back in the Day Bakery or Clary’s Cafe. And in the City Market, the Georgia Tasting Room offers samples of locally produced wines, spirits and craft beers.

Finally, end your time in Savannah with a ghost tour. The city is said to be one of the most haunted in America, and local companies offer a variety of ways to sample its supernatural side, from twilight walks to ghost tours conducted by hearse.

“Given our long and colorful history, it’s not surprising we have so many ghost stories in Savannah,” said Lady Ravenwood, a tour guide with 6th Sense World. “It’s such a wonderful city that people want to stick around even after they’re dead.”

Savannah’s Beach: Tybee Island

After touring Savannah, take a scenic, 20-minute drive to Tybee Island, a resort community with rolling surf and a laid-back vibe. In addition to hanging out on its 3-mile beach, recreation options include kayaking in salt marsh estuaries, dolphin cruises, ecology tours and deep-sea fishing.

Watch the video: Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color: Shermans March to Savannah. History (May 2022).